Public Relations

If yes, then a career in public relations and communications  may appeal to you.

Public relations is all about reputation management. The CIPR define it as:

The result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you. Public relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics. […] Reputation is often the one feature that can make a fundamental difference to a company and thus, give it a competitive edge.

PR professionals create, maintain and manage a positive public image for the company they represent. The profession covers a broad range of areas, from crisis management to re-branding an organisation to producing publications. Another key role of a PR company or agency is to identify potential clients through market research, and to establish how companies can best reach them through advertising campaigns and targeted marketing.

Industry overview

The PR and communications sector is one of the fastest-growing professions in the UK. With the explosion of online media, PR is more important than ever, and companies are hiring more agencies and PR staff to manage reputations. The skill is being able to keep up-to-date with vast amounts of information in the fast moving platform of digital media. Increasingly search engine optimisation (SEO) and social media are  important tools for those aspiring to make it in PR. Social media is a challenge for PR executives as sites such as Facebook and Twitter are beyond the control of companies and their marketeers. Other work includes organising press conferences and media briefings, issuing reactive statements to journalists, dealing face-to-face with journalists and with their requests and enquiries, briefing spokespeople, and acting as a spokesperson yourself. It also includes event management such as attending exhibitions and trade fairs. The publications element includes producing corporate publications, such as in-house magazines, promotional literature and corporate websites. The role may also include internal communications and crisis management – keeping staff and key stakeholders informed about company developments through briefings, blogs and staff intranet sites.

Roles often includes handling campaigns, dealing with press communications and writing press releases as well as keep organised cuttings and handle outside enquiries.

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Public relations takes many forms in different organisations and comes under diverse and differing titles, including public information, investor relations, public affairs, corporate communication, marketing and customer relations. Whatever the title, as a PR professional you can either work in-house or in a PR consultancy.


Working exclusively for the firm you are employed by, managing the reputation of the firm and running campaigns for the firms services or products (and potential services or products). You will gain an in-depth knowledge of the firm and the market within which it operates.

In a consultancy

PR consultancies range from international to niche companies, they will work for a range of clients and most likely you would be working with more than one at any time. Over half of the UK’s top 30 PR consultancies are now owned by global marketing groups such as WPP, Publicis, Havas, Interpublic and Omnicom.

You will gain a broad insight to different organisations working in a consultancy but it is also common to specialise in a particular industry after time such as healthcare, sport, retail, finance or public sector.

The main areas that PR professionals work in are:

  • Consumer/lifestyle public relations – gaining publicity for a particular product or service
  • Business-to-Business (B2B)
  • Financial public relations – communicating financial results and business strategy
  • Crisis communication – responding in a crisis
  • Internal communications – communicating within an organisation
  • Government relations/public affairs – engaging government departments to influence public policy
  • Education (eg universities)
  • Charities/not-for-profit organisations
  • Food-centric relations – communicating specific information centred on foods, beverages and wines
  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
  • SEO (search engine optimisation) PR

Roles in PR are varied, tasks may range from planning strategies and researching and writing press releases to sourcing sponsors and liaising with media and community groups. As such a broad range of key employability skills are required. 

Skills needed

  • Good interpersonal skills, with the ability to interact with people from all backgrounds and at all levels in an organisation.
  • Strong communication and presentation skills.
  • Good project management skills, with the ability to juggle different priorities and meet conflicting deadlines.
  • Commercial awareness: an enquiring mind with an interest in current affairs, particularly in socio-political and economic developments that impact upon business and potentially your client.
  • Analytical skills: you should enjoy analysing problems and be able to suggest creative solutions.
  • Technical skills: you'll need an ability and interest in working with all digital and social media channels.
  • Flexibility, adaptability and ability to think of solutions quickly.


Recruiters  will want evidence of your interest in PR, and work experience is central to this. Get involved in activities at university such as: writing for student publications, raising funds and organising events for your college, a charity, drama or sports group. 

The understanding and use of different forms of social media is essential, so get involved in producing your own blog, Twitter feeds, podcasts, and join discussion groups on LinkedIn.

Many PR consultancies offer work experience placements throughout the year, or summer internships. The Careers Service offers a number of PR-related opportunities through the Micro Internship Programme and Summer Internship Programme. Register on The Internship Office for email alerts and use CareerConnect  There is a commitment to increase diversity in the profession and there are a number of organisations that are proactive in this. See Equality, Diversity & Positive Action section for more information.

There is often confusion about whether you should be paid to do an internship or work experience. Internships and summer jobs are governed in the UK by National Minimum Wage law, which means that if you are carrying out activities that class you as a 'worker' by the employer, then you should be paid. Full details of Employment Rights and Pay for Interns are published by the government.

If you are undertaking a learning and development opportunity such as a micro-internship, or volunteering for a charity or statuary body, or shadowing or observing, then you may not be eligible for the National Minimum Wage. The organisation may reimburse you for your travel and/or lunch expenses but they are not obliged to do so.


Small PR consultancy firms will hire individuals at entry level when there is business demand and as such this will be on an ad-hoc basis. Job titles may include;

  • Media assistant
  • Press executive
  • Account executive
  • Associate programme executive
  • Junior consultant

Larger PR consultancies offer graduate training programmes which usually open sometime between September and November, with a company taking on anything from two to ten new graduates. Postgraduate qualifications are not an entry requirement, however, there are a number of specialist postgraduate courses that are CIPR accredited. Look carefully at destinations of alumni from the course to balance the financial commitment with the potential reward.

To be successful in finding a job in PR, you must be able to promote yourself as really wanting to be in PR and knowing what the work involves. To help accomplish this:

  • Stay up-to-date with the industry, companies and campaigns via  online  blogs and journals such as PRWeek Blog, the Chartered Institute of Public RelationsThe DrumPR Moment and Campaign
  • Become a student member of the CIPR and register for the Foundation Certificate.. Membership  enables you to access training and networking events.
  • Talk to someone doing the job. If you are a student member of the CIPR, access their website to identify a local PR practitioner to conduct an informational interview, either in your home area or at Oxford. You may also wish to attend events run by the local regional CIPR group.
  • Produce an online ‘brand’ of yourself via media such as LinkedIn, Twitter and blogs. Use networks such as LinkedIn to make connections with new people and build your network of influence. Do this by joining groups – or setting up a group if there isn’t one already – and participating in online discussions. Keep it fresh. It’s important that you keep reviewing your brand at regular intervals. Are you portraying yourself the way you want to?
  • Make speculative applications by registering to access and use PR Week UK Power Book 2020 and PR Week Top 150 UK PR Consultancies 2021
  • There are two principal PR trade associations in the UK: the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA). Use these links to research best practice and build up your knowledge of the PR industry.

Recruiters are keen to have a diverse workforce, and many will have policies and processes that are proactive in recruiting students and graduates from diverse backgrounds. An increasing number of recruiters are offering traineeships, internships and insight events that are aimed at specific groups and many are being recognised for their approach to being inclusive employers.

Try the following to discover more about the policies and attitudes of the recruiters that you are interested in:

The PR and communications industry is keen to improve the diversity of its staff. The Taylor Bennett Foundation offers BAME students and graduates (within three years of graduating) a number of programmes, including a Training Programme of a ten week work-based training initiative(for graduates), mentoring and a Summer Stars programme of lectures, mentors and a four week work placement for current BAME students and graduates (within three years of graduating). Creative Access offers internships and mentoring too, for those interested in PR and communication roles. OKMentor offers free training and mentorship for women to break into and progress in the creative industries and have a focus on getting into PR and comms roles. 

The Government Communication Service  has its own 6-12 week Internship Programme  for BAME, care leavers, disabled or socially and economically disadvantaged students. It is also  one of the Departments that hosts  a placement through the Civil Service Summer Diversity Internship or Early Diversity Internship Programme. To be eligible, you must be  meet the diversity requirements Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME), socially or economically. disadvantaged or have a disability.

Transport  for London (TfL) have the Stuart Ross BAME Communications internship and interns have gone on to careers in TfL as well as the Metropolitan Police, Marks & Spencer, NHS, local government and the Arts Council.

The UK Equality Act 2010 has a number of protected characteristics to prevent discrimination due to your age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or beliefs, sex or sexual orientation. For further information, visit the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s webpage on the Equality Act and the Government’s webpages on discrimination.




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